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Jadeveon Clowney is exceeding expectations thus far

The former No. 1 overall pick has been the healthiest and most impactful veteran offseason addition for the Ravens through the first three games of the season.

Indianapolis Colts v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens made several notable additions to their roster at top positions of need during the offseason, including bringing in four first-round wide receivers—the youngest of which was standout rookie Zay Flowers. While three-time Pro Bowl wideout Odell Beckham Jr. is by far the biggest new name, the veteran newcomer that has been the most impactful to start the 2023 season has been three-time Pro Bowl edge defender Jadeveon Clowney.

Both players are 30 years old and in their 10th seasons in the league after being first-round draft picks in 2014 with Clowney going first overall to the Houston Texans and Beckham Jr. No. 12 overall to the New York Giants.

Through the first three games of the season, Beckham Jr. has played a game and a half due to an ankle injury and ranks fifth on the team in targets (7) and receptions (5) and fourth in receiving yards (66). Meanwhile, Clowney—who wasn’t signed until late training camp—leads the team in pressures (13) and pass rush win rate (15.5%) according to Pro Football Focus and is tied for second-most sacks (1.5).

Over the course of his career, he has developed a reputation for being a better run defender and edge setter more so than the elite pass rusher he was expected to be coming out of South Carolina University a decade ago.

However, Clowney has not only managed to remain the healthiest outside linebacker on the roster but he has been the most consistently disruptive pass rusher on the defense despite not being it’s leader in sacks. He also leads the team in quarterback hits with five and recorded a tackle for loss and a pass deflection as well.

His transition into Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald’s scheme has been seamless and appears to only be getting better as there have been numerous opportunities where Clowney has had near sacks and tackles for loss just slip out of his grasp.

“Jadeveon Clowney has played great,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s done a great job. We’ve always thought the world of him as a player, playing against him, and when you have to scheme against him – the point that you are all making – it’s really tough. When you face guys like that, and then you have a chance for them to play for you, you’re excited about that. He’s played really well. He fits what we’re doing well and plays hard. I’m glad he’s here.”

Clowney will get his first crack at his most recent former team this Sunday when the Ravens hit the road to take on the Cleveland Browns in a Week 4 AFC North clash. While much was made about how the end of his tenure with the franchise was tumultuous, he doesn’t harbor any ill will or bad blood towards his former teammates, coaches, and employers.

“If I had any bad blood, I don’t think I would have signed to go back there for two years in a row,” Clowney said. “For everybody that thinks there was some bad blood, I would never sign and go back.”

Prior to joining the Ravens, he spent the previous two seasons with the Browns where he appeared in 26 games, made 24 starts, and recorded 11 sacks, 23 quarterback hits, 15 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles.

“I don’t think I really necessarily need any extra motivation,” Clowney said. “It’s a division game. I’ve got a lot of respect for a lot of the guys over there. [I have] a lot of friends over there – [people] I still consider as friends – good teammates [that] I played with for two years. I hope the best [for them], but not against us. They’re in our division. You definitely want to win these games. You need these games; they help down the road. So, it’s just good to get it going this early in the season.”

Through the first three games of the season, there’s a three-way tie for the top spot on the AFC North standings but the Ravens and Browns have looked like the class of the division thus far and Clowney knows that stacking wins against divisional opponents essentially “counts twice.”

“To go to the playoffs and to win the division, we’ve got to go through this team, in Cleveland, and then [so on],” Clowney said. “Coming off the loss we just had, we need to play well this week. We need to play our style of football and come out there and play top [notch]. We need to go out there and play good ball, play defense, get stops, and we’ll see how it looks in the end.”